It takes a village: Help prevent underage drinking in your community
Underage drinking occurs in all communities at different ages. Consistent teen awareness and parent education can change attitudes and behaviors. It’s never too early to talk about underage drinking. Some kids as young as 13 years old believe drinking is OK. The social pressures increase with age. Curiosity grows. Raising socially strong youth is the responsibility of parents, teachers, advocates, coaches and spiritual leaders – it takes a village.
Here are ways that you can guide good choices in your community when it comes to preventing underage drinking:
Build your village
Influence takes leadership. Take action by talking to those around you and rallying supporters. Does your community have a program in place that addresses underage drinking? Reach out to your community leaders and law enforcement. If no formal group has been organized, you can assemble any number of people who are passionate about this cause. Gather a group of neighbors or parents of your child’s friends. The National Association of Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives (NAGHSR) created a series of Community How-to Guides, designed specifically to help cities and towns build strong programs that guide good choices.
And here at HEARTS for families, we can help! Our alcohol prevention projects provides support, resources and education to regions throughout Georgia. Get involved by volunteering or attending one of the STEP UP workgroup meetings in your area.
Plan your message
Once your group is assembled, you need to know your purpose and your direction. Arm yourself with the knowledge and the tools to make a difference in your community. The Surgeon General published a Guide to Actions in Your Community that gives facts that support your goals and purpose. Use this guide to help you get started and build your alliance. Outline the messages you want to share and discuss how these messages can be delivered. What events do you want to attend? How can information be shared at home, in school, and among organized groups? There are so many ways to reach out in the community. How can your message stand out and be heard?
Be a role model
Changing attitudes and behaviors about teens and alcohol doesn’t happen overnight. Conversations and actions must be modeled at home and in public. Be the Wall has several resources available for adults to gather information and support the effort to eliminate underage drinking. But, it’s up to us to send the message to our kids. Drink responsibly and talk to your kids about what that means: How much is too much? When is drinking appropriate? Why do you drink? Kids need to know that drinking laws and boundaries exist, even for adults. All actions have consequences. Help guide good decisions for your kids, and be sure they see you doing the same.
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